New course is not about rote exams
As someone who endured the pains of secondary education in Hong Kong under the old system that fostered rote learning, the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education is a welcome sign of progress. The aim is for a more liberal education.
One of the subjects, liberal studies, will encourage youngsters to think critically and help them pay more attention to current events.
Concerns expressed regarding a recent test are understandable ('Few pass liberal studies mock test', July 13). It is interesting to note that those who sat for the test blamed their anxiety on lack of past exam papers or revision material.
It is also fascinating to read about teachers complaining that there is a lack of guidance on how to grade liberal studies exam papers. These two signs suggest the problems we have with mainstream education in Hong Kong.
Should studying for a subject mean simply ploughing through old exam papers and memorising model answers? And, why would liberal studies teachers perceive the liberty bestowed on them to exercise judgment and creativity as a drawback?
As teachers, they should be competent enough to grade student's answers fairly (though this is a relative term) without having to rely heavily on suggested solutions. This culture reflects poorly not only on how our students learn, but how our teachers have been trained.
I think the introduction of subjects such as liberal studies will benefit our secondary students and teachers, as they are becoming forced to reconsider the role critical thinking should have in their education and teaching.
Kris Chui, Mong Kok
Fees based on residency, not passport
We wish to clarify a point put forward by Peter Lok in his letter ('Let Britain foot bill for schools', July 14).
It is not the case that Britain charges non-British passport holders double the amount of fees paid by British citizens to attend UK universities.
University fee status is based on residency, not nationality. Students are eligible for subsidised 'home fees' if they have been ordinarily resident in Britain or the European Union for a minimum of three years before starting their courses and for purposes other than education.
British nationals living overseas who are not ordinarily resident will not enjoy home fees. Foreign passport holders in Britain and the EU meeting the ordinary residence requirement will.
From 2012, the differential between home and overseas fees will reduce considerably under current reforms of higher education funding in England, which will result in fees for home students of between GBP6,000 (HK$76,000) and GBP9,000 a year. The latter is similar to fees for international students for many courses.
Katherine Forestier, director of education, science and society, British Council Hong Kong
A bit rich of Leung to blast policies
Leung Chun-ying seems to want to have it both ways.
Probably to boost his popularity among the small-circle chief executive electoral panel and the wider public, he has recently been criticising current government policies. But as a long-term leading member of the Executive Council, he has been involved in formulating and approving those same policies.
If he really thinks they are so bad, why didn't he speak out against them earlier and, if he was then overruled by the other members of Exco, he could have shown his integrity by resigning?
On the other hand, Exco members are supposed to take joint responsibility for the council's decisions. This probably applies to him more than other Exco members, as he is the convenor. Leung's outspoken criticisms of policies approved by the council, even if justified, go against the required collective responsibility.
Therefore he should either toe the collective line, or resign.
It is not acceptable for him to go along with Exco decisions and then speak against them in public at a later date to gain political advantage.
Rob Leung, Wan Chai
Selective enforcement to blame
I wish to comment on two subjects that many correspondents commented on.
On English teachers, if a student is not interested in mastering a second language, there is little any teacher can do, whether that teacher is a native English speaker or local.
On the difficulty in acting on illegal structures, the government has not learned from experience. From poor road signage to property hegemony, the government takes a selective or misguided approach to enforcing existing rules and allows problems to become too big to deal with. It then uses lame excuses and further delays the solution, feeding a vicious cycle.
Wilkie Wong, Pok Fu Lam
This visitor has nothing but praise
On reading the letter from Australian visitor Steve Stefanopoulos ('Great city, shame about the locals', July 20), I could not let it go without a reply.
My husband and I are presently on our fourth visit to Hong Kong and while I agree with him that it is a city full of life and excitement, I cannot agree with his other comments.
Many times when I have been on the MTR, I have been offered a seat, rarely have I ever had to stand and there is always that friendly smile.
On other occasions when we have been lost and trying to sort out where we are, we have been approached by local people offering their help who soon have us on our way again.
Unlike Mr Stefanopoulos, we have encouraged family and friends to visit Hong Kong, telling them it is a wonderful place to spend a holiday, and we will continue to do so.
Robin Mead, Brisbane, Australia
Don't meddle in America's own affairs
China has slammed the US because President Barack Obama met the Dalai Lama ('Obama-Dalai Lama meeting could cool ties', July 18).
According to the Foreign Ministry spokesman, 'Such an act has grossly interfered in China's internal affairs, hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and damaged Sino-American relations.'
Well, please remember that the United States is a sovereign country, and its president is a democratically elected leader. He can meet whoever he pleases.
So, let me repeat the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman's statement in a slightly different way, considering China so rudely asked Mr Obama not to meet the Dalai Lama: 'Such an act has grossly interfered in America's internal affairs, hurt the feelings of the American people and damaged American-China relations.'
This equally make sense.
John C. M. Lee, Chai Wan
Shocked by Cable TV channel
On July 14, I phoned Cable TV to carry out repairs on my system.
The customer service assistant asked if I wanted to join a free film channel. I was told the films might contain adult and violent elements. I said yes and our conversation was recorded. I was asked if I was over 18 and given a password so I could assess Channel 80 [CAT Preview].
When I checked it out, I was shocked by the graphic nature of the adverts. Cable TV should explain why it is marketing that kind of material in this way.
Jean Ho, Repulse Bay
Heavy-hand approach won't work
Given the draconian measures Hans Wergin proposes ('Crack down on litter at Cheung Chau', July 16), he is in the minority.
Green activists are putting pressure on the authorities to clean up the harbour but hopefully in a much milder manner than the anti-smoking, anti-litter brigade with their instant fines for the unwary. Where are the huge fines for the truly heavy industrial polluters? Why is it always the 'little man' who has to stump up?
The seas belongs to the fish and the fishermen. Give them a fair deal and you will be surprised what they can do without a heavy-handed approach.
Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong